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3/18/04 - HAITI MOVES FORWARD - 2004-03-19

Troops from Canada, France, Chile, and the United States are in Haiti providing security as the new prime minister, Gerard Latortue, works to assemble a new government. The troops were authorized by the United Nations Security Council.

Mr. Latortue, who was appointed by interim President Boniface Alexandre, has stressed the need for a government of national unity. He has held meetings with political party representatives, including members of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas party. "The government I will head,” said Mr. Latortue, “will do its utmost to plant the seeds, to establish the foundations of democracy so that it will germinate and grow and become strong."

But there is concern that former President Aristide may try to disrupt Haiti’s effort to return to stability and democracy. Mr. Aristide resigned and fled into exile last month when armed rebels marched on Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. But he is now in neighboring Jamaica, and insists that he is the constitutional president of Haiti. White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says the U.S. is concerned that Mr. Aristide’s presence in Jamaica may be an incitement to more violence in Haiti by pro-Aristide gangs:

“The Haitian people need to move forward. There is a new president. There is a new prime minister. There’s a new chief of the police. There is an eminent persons council that is trying to guide that process. There is a United Nations assessment team that has been in Haiti assessing the needs of a follow-on security force. The best thing that President Aristide can do for his people is to now go into the background and let them try and achieve the kind of democratic progress that they were unable to achieve under him.”

National Security Adviser Rice said that Haiti must address many serious problems. Its economy remains dependent on foreign aid and money sent by Haitians living outside the country. Its only growth industry is illegal drug trafficking.

The Haitian people deserve leaders worthy of their trust and respect, leaders who favor the rule of law and the common good over personal power and gain. The U.S. and other nations have pledged to help, but the long-term job of building democracy is up to the Haitians themselves.